CHICAGO -- There were some eye rolls when Stan Bowman pulled off a deal at the NHL's trade deadline to land defenseman Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets.
Many who follow the Chicago Blackhawks were hoping for a bigger prize reeled in by the team's general manager than a puck-moving blueliner with an odd-sounding name.
They're probably a lot happier now.
Oduya, who has fit right into the Blackhawks' up-tempo system in his five games since the trade, led the way for Chicago on Friday night in a big 4-3 victory at the United Center against the New York Rangers. He scored the tie-breaking goal with 5:56 left in regulation and set up Chicago's first tally for a two-point game and impressive display of what made him a nice pickup by Bowman -- who got him for a pair of draft picks.
"It's fun to score a goal ... it doesn't happen too often for me," said Oduya, whose third goal and 12th assist were his first points with the Blackhawks. "On a team like this, [with] such high skill, you kind of get into that flow a little bit and try to feed as many pucks to forwards as you can. I try to be responsible defensively, but hopefully I can jump into some more plays and create some more offensively than maybe I've done before."
The Hawks (37-25-7) wouldn't mind, especially with star captain and top-line center Jonathan Toews still battling the effects of a concussion. Toews has missed nine games; the Hawks are now 5-4-0 in his absence.
Andrew Shaw, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane also scored for Chicago, and it was Kane's empty-net goal with 53 seconds remaining that proved to be the winner when New York's Brad Richards scored just 12 seconds later.
Artem Anisimov and Brandon Prust also scored for the Rangers (42-18-7), who lost all three games on a four-day road trip this week -- the first time all season the Eastern Conference leaders have dropped three in a row in regulation. Their lead over Pittsburgh has dwindled to four points and New York now starts a seven-game homestand on Sunday against the Islanders.
“We needed a couple of defensive plays, and we didn't get them," coach John Tortorella said. "All in all I thought we played a really good game. I thought we got back to the way we need to play ... but when we were finding ways to win earlier, we're finding ways to lose now. We'll keep on banging away."
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who assisted on Anisimov's goal by blasting a shot through the slot, felt similarly. Still, letting this one slip away stung.
"It just goes to show you, in the blink of an eye it can get away from you," McDonagh said. "I don't really have an answer for why. It's a tough pill to swallow right now."
The game turned into a thriller in the third after a tight defensive battle for the first two periods. It was tied 1-1 starting the third on the goals by Anisimov and Shaw, but Prust gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead 7:11 into the final period by firing home the rebound of McDonagh's shot to cap a strong shift.
Sharp, however, got the Hawks even for the second time with a pretty goal of his own at 13:02, after drifting to the bottom of the left circle and getting in perfect position to shoot. Hossa zipped a pass that traveled through the blue paint and with Lundqvist sprawled, the goalie had no chance to stop the snap shot that became Sharp's 26th goal of the season and a momentum-swinging tally.
Oduya put the Hawks ahead just 62 seconds later after he took a pass from Marcus Kruger near the left point and blasted the puck past Henrik Lundqvist's glove hand to make it 3-2 -- and really fire up the sold-out building.
Kane then scored into an empty net on the last of Chicago's 22 shots before Richards beat Ray Emery (22 saves) with 41 seconds left.
“That was fun hockey at the end," said Kane, who has four goals and two assists in the past six games, all without Toews. "When the crowd's into it like that, and you score on a play like that to tie it up, I think everyone gets into it. Oduya had a great game. Fitting that he scores that goal that should have been the winner."
It was the second time the Hawks have beaten the Rangers this season, with the first being a 4-2 victory on Feb. 16 at Madison Square Garden. Unlike that game, in which Chicago pounced on New York early by scoring four times in the first 10 minutes, goals were hard to come by until the third.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission by scoring with just 46.3 seconds left in the first on Anisimov's goal, which was sparked by a Hawks turnover. After three Chicago players failed to clear their zone, John Mitchell collected the puck near the left point and slid a pass to Anisimov in the slot for an uncontested scoring chance that he put past Ray Emery with a slick deke.
The second period was more of the same tight checking until Shaw's seventh goal of the season tied it 1-1 with 5:32 left. Standing in the slot, he tipped a point blast by Oduya after the Hawks' defenseman made an impressive play just to get the shot off. After Anisimov came out hard to challenge, Oduya deftly pulled the puck back and to the left in order to create some space to launch a shot through traffic.
Shaw reached out and deflected it through Lundqvist's pads.
"He pulls it back, a little pump fake, finds the lane and puts it to the net," Shaw said of Oduya's slippery move along the blue line. "He's a quiet pick up that no one saw coming, but I think it was the best decision for the team. He's helped us a lot on the back end."
Kane wasn't on the ice, but enjoyed watching the sequence.
"I was right there by the bench and saw a perfect [view] of it," he said. "We were all clapping on the bench and pumping him up before he even shot it, and then it goes in the net. It was fun to watch."
Kane thinks the Hawks are becoming more fun to watch, especially with the return of injured defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in this game plus Toews making strides.
"I think you've really got to love the make-up of our team right now," Kane said. "You get Hjalmarsson back. That helps out things like the penalty kill and not giving up [scoring] chances. I think we're waiting for the big guy to get back, and once he does this team's going to get even better."